Talking up Afghanistan as the “Harvard of terrorists” in comments Monday night, President Trump says that he would like to complete a withdrawal of US forces from the country, but that he intends to leave “strong intelligence” in the country, amounting to a number of intelligence officers.
The US is in ongoing talks with the Taliban on a deal to withdraw from the country, in return for the Taliban keeping ISIS and al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan.
Trump said even without US ground troops in Afghanistan “you have to watch” the country. It’s not clear how well the intelligence agents would be able to position themselves when not being embedded with an occupation force.
It’s not clear if this condition has been presented to the Taliban in the Doha negotiations. The Taliban may ultimately not have a problem with a troop-less presence for the US, but if this hasn’t been discussed, Trump may be complicating the talks by insisting it will happen.
Trump has long expressed interest in pulling out of Afghanistan, though some in the administration have been keen to keep troops in the country, and many in Congress have expressed discomfort with the idea of the war, the longest in US history, ever ending.